Washington, DC Overview
When To Go
Washington is a great place to visit any time of year with the possible exception of July/August when it can be very humid and crowded with tourists. Spring, with the cherry blossoms in bloom, may be the most beautiful time of the year.
Washington can be reached by air from anywhere in the country. Reagan Airport is virtually in the City on the Potomac while Dulles is about an hour outside in the Virginia countryside. Washington is a 4 hour drive from New York and 3 from Philadelphia. Amtrak services Washington from most major eastern cities and is about a 3 1/2 hour trip from New York and 2 from Philadelphia. It is really a delightful way to travel to DC.
Public transportation is excellent and taxis and Uber are plentiful. You will not need a car unless you want to venture out beyond the city.
Things To Do
No visit to Washington is complete without a tour of the monuments; Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington, Vietnam War and others. While it is nearly impossible to see inside the White House these days, a walk or drive-by is a must, particularly at night when it is all lit up. A visit to Arlington Cemetery and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier isn’t to be missed; a moving experience when you realize how many people have given their lives for our country.
Washington is a big museum town with a museum for almost any interest. Holocaust, dinosaurs, international spies, space, medical, historical documents are just some of the topics.
Other favorite stops include the National Arboretum, 446 acres of flowers, trees and bushes from all over the world, the National Zoo and the National Cathedral, There are wonderful walking and biking opportunities in a delightful park or along canal towpaths, places to rent boats and kayaks, world class art galleries, specialty shops and boutiques and maybe the best flea market we have ever seen.
The tow path of the C&O Canal in Georgetown, Rock Creek Park and the Mall are all ideal for walking, running and biking. You can rent bikes at Thompson Boat Center, Another great place for biking is the National Arboretum where there are 9 1/2 miles of roadways through the beautiful gardens.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden pool becomes an ice skating rink in winter. You can rent skates, there’s a little café for hot chocolate and you can enjoy the sculptures as you skate. Washington Harbour Ice Rink is another great place to skate. In Georgetown on the water surrounded by bars and cafes, some outside even in the winter.
Baseball is back in the Nation’s Capital with the Nationals and the locals are thrilled. The Redskins are trying to reclaim their glory years, The Wizards rule the hard court and the Capitols the ice. Schedules and tickets available at Ticketmaster.
Old Town Trolley Tours lets you see the sights and get on and off when you want. $24. DC Ducks Tour may be the most fun with a city tour on land and in the Potomac. $25. Bike and Roll is a great way to see Washington and get some exercise. $40. Private, customized tours by licensed guides are available from Guide Services of Washington for $155 plus transportation. The newest tour innovation is to see the City on a Segway with City Segway Tours. See Mt. Vernon by taking the Potomac Riverboat’s Miss Christin from Old Town Alexandria for the 50 minute trip to the first president’s home.
There is so much to see in Washington and it is impossible to get to everything and certainly not in a 3 day weekend. Here are a dozen things you should see before anything else, in no particular order;
The monuments and memorials-Lincoln, Jefferson, Arlington Cemetery, Iwo Jima and
Vietnam Veterans Memorial. These are included in virtually every kind of tour.
Mount Vernon-George Washington’s estate.
National Air & Space Museum-Chronicles man’s feats in the air and space.
U.S. Capitol-The heart of our democracy.
National Gallery of Art. One of the greatest art museums in the world.
National Museum of American History.-Wonderful exhibits of America’s past.
National Zoo-As good a zoo as you will find anywhere. Remember the pandas from China?
Washington National Cathedral– one of the largest cathedrals in the world.
Dumbarton Oaks and Gardens– mansion, museum and gardens.
The White House. Visits have been restricted since 9/11, but driving by is still awe inspiring.
Library of Congress. Many consider this the most fascinating visit in Washington.
International Spy Museum. This has become a top attraction. The story of spies and
intelligence operations that changed history.
Holocaust Museum. Depicts this horrible time in our history, “provides a powerful lesson in
the fragility of freedom, the myth of progress, and the need for vigilance in preserving
National Museum of African American History & Culture. Wonderful recounting of the
history and culture of black Americans.
The National Theatre, books Broadway touring productions and new plays on their way to Broadway. The Shakespeare Theatre puts on 4 plays a year, three by Shakespeare, and the Arena Stage is Washington’s fine regional theater. Finally the Warner Theatre, hosts Broadway shows, comedians and concerts. Signature Theater is a non-profit professional theater company producing contemporary musicals and plays and reinventing classic musicals.
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia and New Hampshire NW, has 5 different stages ranging in size from the 2,500 seat Concert Hall to the smaller Terrace Theater and Theater Lab venues. The Center presents everything from ballet to symphonies to drama to comedy to opera.
Galerie Lareuse, has works of Picasso, Matisse, Calder and more. P&C Art, in Georgetown, large selection of original paintings and limited edition prints. Some great stuff on Georgetown and Washington. Georgetown Gallery of Art has been open since 1957 and specializes in 20th century masterworks. Old Print Gallery, original antique prints of American towns and cities. Touchstone Gallery offers contemporary art from regional artists. Zenith Gallery was founded by Margery E. Goldberg to serve as an affordable haven for artists to work, live and share their art.
The Fashion Center at Pentagon City, about 10 minutes from downtown by Metro is the typical Mall with 170 stores and all the usual suspects. The Shops at National Place, is interesting for both its design and the 40 some boutiques and shops. The Shops at Georgetown Park, right on the Canal, and Georgetown in general are the best places for shopping in Washington in the stores you would find in most malls around the country.
Some other favorites; Periwinkle Gifts, Gourmet items, soaps, lots of unusual items; Betsy Fisher, 1224 Connecticut Ave. NW. Great stuff for the office or weekend; My Place in Tuscany, in Alexandria. Beautiful artwork. Worth the trip to Alexandria. Salt and Sundry is a fantastic shop for hostess gifts.
March–National Cherry Blossom Festival
April–White House Spring Garden Tour
June– Wolf Trap Jazz and Blues Festival
July– 4th of July Celebration- Smithsonian Folklife Festival
October–Taste of DC Festival
December-National Christmas Tree Lighting, Old Town Christmas Candlelight Tours, Washington National Cathedral Christmas Services.
- Eastern Market Flea Market on Saturdays, 7th and C Street SW
- Georgetown Flea Market on Sundays, Wisconsin and S Street NW.
- Old Town, Alexandria
- The Kennedy Center free 6pm concert
- The monuments
- Library of Congress
- Mt. Vernon
- C& O Canal
- National Zoo
- Piano Bar at Mr. Smith’s
- Drinks at the Sky Terrace
- Dinner at 1789
Good to Know, Good to Go
News and Resources
Food & Drink
All of our Featured properties offer breakfast. Should you venture out, the utterly charming Tabard Inn, is a favorite for breakfast, but especially for Sunday brunch. You can eat in one of several very cozy rooms or outside on a brick walled terrace. They make their own donuts, have a good selection of wines by the glass, make a killer Bloody Mary and have some very interesting menu items. I also like the fact that the menu is a la carte, so you don’t get charged some exorbitant brunch fee. The Short Rib Hash at the Blue Duck Tavern may be the best brunch dish in DC. Wonderful courtyard and patio at Iron Gate which specializes in Italian and Greek small plates.
Clyde’s , Georgetown, is the best saloon in Washington renowned for their burgers, chili and other pub food. In the warmer months, head over to Sequoia , and enjoy an extensive lunch menu on the patio overlooking the Potomac River. Bistro Bis, at the Hotel George is a stylish bi-level bistro with oak walls and a stainless steel bar. The Beef Bourguignon made with beef short ribs is quite amazing and worth the trip alone. La Chaumiere in Georgetown is a delightful French country restaurant with beamed ceilings, stucco walls, a large stone fireplace and excellent food. Fridays only for lunch. Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons in Georgetown has great canal views and an amazing menu.
For a great setting and delicious burgers, Clyde’s in Georgetown is a favorite. The Oak Fired Steak Burger at Bourbon Steak in the Four Seasons Hotel is another gem and the Proper Burger at Duke’s Grocery on Dupont Circle was the #5 burger nationally in a recent survey.
Old Ebbit Grill is a favorite for many reason, not the least of which is their oyster bar. 3-6pm oysters 50% off. Hosts the International Wines for Oysters Competition, the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving. Rappahannock Oyster Bar has their own Chesapeake oyster farms so you know the oysters are fresh. Waterfront location. The Salt Line in the Navy yard area, sits on the water and offers a large selection of oyster choices and some wonderful ales to pair with them.
Maxwell Park with locations in Shaw and Navy Yard has a great vibe and fun bartenders. Shaw opens at 5pm every day, navy Yard at 4pm. 50 wines by the glass. Best Bar in America from Esquire, Best Wine Bar from Washingtonian, Washington City Paper and Express, and a 2019 RAMMY award for Wine Program of the Year.
From acclaimed Chef José Andrés comes Barmini an over the top, creative cocktail lounge. Old Ebbitt Grill down the street from the White House was a “Best Martini” winner. Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons has a sexy lounge and creative cocktails. The Gibson is a modern speakeasy (the entry on 14th Street isn’t even marked) with trailblazing cocktails. The Round Robin Bar at The Willard Hotel is an institution in DC. You are bound to see a Senator with his “niece”. Off the Record at the Hay Adams, was chosen by Forbes.com as one of the “World’s Best Hotel Bars.” Café Milano, in Georgetown, is where the beautiful people of Washington sip their cocktails before dinner. Columbia Room has won all kinds of awards for “Best Bar” and it is truly a unique experience. The Tasting Room offers a 4 course cocktail tasting paired with small plates that requires a reservation and the Spirits Library and Punch Garden menu features an amazing array of cocktails along with snacks and small plates. Very cool space down an alley.
Rooftop/View cocktails: POV is a rooftop bar in the W Hotel that looks out on the White House and Treasury. Top of the Gate at the Watergate Hotel has an outside rooftop bar and skating rink. Fantastic views. Whiskey Charlie, Southwest Waterfront District, atop the Canopy Hotel. Premium cocktails and “creative finger food.”
All the usual suspects in terms of national chains, but I like the Prime Rib, steaks are wonderful, atmosphere is romantic and clubby, the prime rib is off the charts and they have piano and bass music every night. I would go to BLT Steak just for the popovers, but their steaks and Dover Sole are amazing too.
While Away a Rainy Day
Martin’s Tavern on Wisconsin Ave in Georgetown has been around for 75 years. Legend has it JFK proposed to Jackie here.
After Dinner Fun
Gross National Product is a hilarious sketch humor troupe who skewer Washington’s politicians and play at the State Theater on Saturdays. More comedy at DC Improv and The Big Hunt a dive bar anbd underground comedy venue. Mr. Smith’s Piano Bar in Georgetown is a great place for sing-along fun. Blues Alley in Georgetown is the place for big-time jazz. Check out the Eighteenth Street Lounge for DJ’s and live music. The 9:30 Club is a nightclub and live music venue, named one of the 10 best live music venues in America by Rolling Stone. The Anthem is a sister venue, also showcasing live acts.
The Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown and the Mandarin Oriental on Maryland Avenue are the height of luxury and tranquility. They are expensive, but well worth it. Also quite good and less expensive is Elizabeth Arden Red Door, 5225 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
A Day in Hunt Country
Another wonderful diversion on either the first or last day in Washington, is the marvelous Goodstone Inn & Restaurant in Middlebury, Virginia, a short distance from the District. Wonderful rooms and dining and a charming little town.
Where To Stay
Embassy Circle Guest House
OVERVIEWTraveling to a major city for a weekend can be very expensive. So it was with a sense of utter joy that we recently found a marvelous B&B, the Embassy Circle Guest House, in Washington, DC that I wish the owners would clone all across the country. Located on stylish, quiet and safe Embassy Row and...…View Property Details
Four Seasons Hotel
AAA Five Diamonds Lodging, Best Weekends Hall of Fame, Forbes Five Star Lodging, Notable Wine List
OVERVIEWGeorgetown is my favorite part of the City with its quaint boutiques, bistros, bars and particularly the C&O Canal whose tow path is a great place to walk or run. The Four Seasons Hotel is perfectly located in Georgetown, right on the Canal. THE ROOMS One of the great things about this hotel is that...…View Property Details
The Mandarin Oriental Washington is located in the heart of the district in the southwest section, overlooking the marina, the Tidal Basin and the monuments. The view of the Jefferson Memorial at night is quite spectacular. While I would generally scoff at a description of “Feng Shui touches”, there is something incredibly soothing and calming...…View Property Details
OVERVIEWThe French inspired Sofitel Lafayette Square is a favorite for its service, stylish rooms and price/value. With 220 rooms and 17 suites, this charming hotel is both comfortable and intimate. I was greeted immediately upon leaving my cab and the doorman introduced himself and asked for the name on my reservation. We made our way...…View Property Details
The Hay Adams
OVERVIEWEven the most jaded political observer would have to admit to being impressed by the view from the Hay Adams, across Lafayette Square to the White House. At night with the building all lit up, it was quite spectacular. The historic Italian Renaissance-style hotel opened in 1928 and today has 124 rooms and 21 suites....…View Property Details
OVERVIEWThe Jefferson Hotel was built in 1923 as an apartment building and converted to a hotel in the 50’s. It closed in 2007 for a two year renovation that resulted in the stunning property it is today. The hotel is a Forbes Four Star recipient and is currently ranked the #1 hotel in Washington by Trip...…View Property Details
OVERVIEW People of a certain age will remember the Watergate as the scene of the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters that ultimately brought down the Presidency of Richard Nixon. In fact, the hotel has a bit of a sense of humor about it, the last four digits of its phone number are 1972, the...…View Property Details
Where To Eat
Set in a renovated Federal house in Georgetown, 1789 has always been a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Six separate dining areas are decorated in wonderful American antiques, equestrian and historical prints. My favorites are The John Carroll Room and the Pub. The John Carroll Room is decorated with Currier and Ives prints, early...…View Restaurant Details >
“Dramatic” only begins to describe 2941, a remarkable restaurant located in an unlikely spot, an office park, in Falls Church, Virginia. Picture palettes of rich blues, golds and browns, floor to ceiling windows, 30 ft. ceilings, soaring columns, fireplaces and views of a lake and waterfall. The walls are faux finished and topped with wood...…View Restaurant Details >
Blue Duck Tavern
Housed in the Park Hyatt Hotel, the Blue Duck Tavern is a lively and comfortable spot for an after work drink, some delicious apps (their resident Cheese & Charcuterie Specialist will custom prepare a cheese platter for you) or a wonderful dinner. We have also enjoyed their Sunday brunch where the Short Rib hash is...…View Restaurant Details >
Inn at Little Washington
Every once in a while, you come across an experience so sublime, you feel the need to tell everyone about it. Such is the dining experience at the Inn at Little Washington, about an hour and a half outside of Washington in the Virginia countryside. This is a truly remarkable place and I suggest you...…View Restaurant Details >
L’Auberge Chez Francois
When I lived in the Washington area in the late 70’s L’Auberge was one of the highest rated restaurants in the DC area and amazingly after over 40 years, it still is. They are now celebrating their 64th year. What a testament to Monsieur Francois and the Haeringer family to have maintained this kind of...…View Restaurant Details >
On that rare occasion when you experience the culinary equivalent of the “perfect storm” you want to shout about it from the rooftops. Such was the case of our recent dinner at the Georgetown French bistro La Chaumiere. A rustic country dining room, centered with a fireplace, outstanding food, a great waiter and one of...…View Restaurant Details >
If ever there was a “go-to” restaurant in Washington it is Le Diplomate, a charming French bistro that has no pretension and is the toughest reservation in town. It is perfect for an after work drink, a mid-week supper, a weekend brunch or a romantic evening for two on the weekend. The difference between Le...…View Restaurant Details >
Marcel’s is a favorite of the Washington elite, whether you are a Congressman, lobbyist or someone with a niece in town. Robert Wiedmair’s flagship restaurant never disappoints. First stop is the sleek and sexy lounge that embraces the color of white chocolate with a crisp white palette, bar stools and chairs covered in white leather,...…View Restaurant Details >
Plume at The Jefferson Hotel
Start your evening in Quill, a dark and intimate cocktail lounge with an excellent drink menu. Tuesday through Saturday, legendary Peter Robinson entertains at the piano. Hotel guests can also enjoy their drinks in the cozy Book Room beside a roaring fire. The signature restaurant, Plume, is the only Forbes Five Star restaurant in Washington...…View Restaurant Details >